"Hi," I said, "you know, we give out food. What’s your name? Are you Jewish?"
The electrician who had repaired my light fixture was on his way out when he said, “Do you want to hear an amazing Hashgachah pratis story?”
“Sure,” I replied. I’m always ready to hear a story (and I also know that when an electrician comes to your house, you act gracious and friendly — you may need him again!).
The electrician needed no more prompting, and launched into his story.
“So, you know that I volunteer distributing meals,” he continued.
I hadn’t known, but I was duly impressed.
“One of my regulars lives in the basement of an apartment building. One day, as I dropped off the box, she told me that someone new had moved in upstairs. Just then a rather bedraggled young woman walked by.
“‘Hi,’ I said, ‘you know, we give out food. What’s your name? Are you Jewish?’
“‘No, I’m not, and I don’t need anything,’ she replied belligerently.
“I got the hint. ‘Okay, sure. Have a great day,’ I said, and left.
“It was about two weeks later and I stopped at the 7-Eleven before making my meal deliveries to pick up a soda that one of my regulars really appreciated. I was surprised to find the manager blocking the door.
“ ‘Sorry, we’re closed, we’re waiting for the police,’ the manager said. ‘She just tried shoplifting here,’ he went on, gesturing in someone’s direction.
“I looked, and was surprised to see the highly unfriendly new resident of the apartment building.
“I convinced the manager to give me the soda, and when I paid him, I left him a few extra dollars to cover whatever she had taken. As I left, I passed the girl.
“ ‘The police are going to come soon. Why’re you hanging around here?’ I asked her. ‘I covered the tab, and I guess you must be hungry if you were shoplifting food. Here’s ten bucks, go get yourself some food,’ I said, handing her some money, and turning to get back to my car.
“ ‘Yasher koach,’ I heard a quiet voice behind me say.
“I stopped in my tracks and turned slowly. ‘What did you say?’
“She looked down as she repeated, ‘Yasher koach.’
“ ‘I thought you said that you weren’t Jewish?’ I said.
“ ‘Well, I am,’ she answered, ‘and you helped me, so I said yasher koach.’
“I was surprised, but didn’t let it be obvious.
“ ‘So what’s your name?’ I asked. ‘You know, there are lots of places nearby where you can get a hot kosher meal. Does your family live around here?’
“She told me her name and the neighborhood she’d come from. It was a pretty unusual name, and I knew the neighborhood from work, so it sort of lodged in my brain. I told her if she wanted meals, to tell her neighbor from the basement to let me know. Then I went on my way.
“About two weeks later, I got a call from my steady lady in the basement. She was hysterical. ‘She’s dead, there are police everywhere around here. They found her alone upstairs in the apartment.’
“ ‘Who’s dead? What police?’ I asked, trying to follow.
“ ‘Her, the girl upstairs!’ she replied frantically. ‘No one knew her and they can’t find any information about her. The police are all over!’
“I was nearby and raced over. ‘What’s going on?’ I asked a policeman.
“ ‘Can’t go in, buddy,’ he laconically replied. ‘Waiting for the coroner, no ID, so she’ll go to the medical examiner; guess it’s another one for Potters’ Field.’
“ ‘Wait!’ I yelled. ‘I know her name! I’ll find her family!’
“ ‘Well, you better make it fast,’ he answered. ‘The coroner’s on the way.’
“I called Misaskim and said, ‘Get over here fast! If the medical examiner gets involved, it will be a nightmare.’
“Then I called a few friends in the neighborhood she’d said she was from. They remembered her. One said he knew her family. She had disappeared months ago and her family had no idea where she was. I told him the bad news and asked him to get him to get hold of any family members as quickly as possible.
“She didn’t live too far away, and her devastated family got there in time to claim their lost child and make sure she at least received the final resting place of a bas Yisrael.
“One simple expression of appreciation — ‘yasher koach,’ and a lost soul returned to her family and her Creator as a member of Klal Yisrael.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 903)
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